We caught up with Danielle Sullivan from from Portland, Oregon’s Wild Ones, on the road between San Diego and Los Angeles The band is on tour right now with The Helio Sequence and Pure Bathing Culture. Their forthcoming EP Heatwave comes out August 14th via Top Shelf Records.
Northern Transmissions: Hey Danielle! How’re you doing?
Danielle Sullivan: I’m doing well! I’m in our van right now. It’s very loud so I’m sorry if that’s an issue.
NT: Not a problem. Where are you guys headed today?
DS: We played in San Francisco last night at the Independent and we are driving to Los Angeles right now. We’re in the middle of the desert and we’re playing at the Roxy tonight.
NT: How was the last show?
DS: Oh my goodness it was one of our favorite shows in a really long time. That venue is always so wonderful and yea, it was a really fun show. We are getting ready to release our next record, it’s an EP called Heatwave. It comes out exactly one month from Tuesday and so we’re playing shows and playing the new material and getting excited about that release feels really really good.
NT: You guys were just in Vancouver, where we are, to play some of your new stuff! Did you get a chance to explore much or were you just in and out?
DS: A little bit. Not so much this time. We had been able to spend two consecutive days on a previous tour where we actually got to walk around and go eat at restaurants and have coffee and… is it called Gastown? Yea, we got to walk around there. But this time it was kind of an in and out type situation.
NT: Tight schedule!
DS: Yea, I know very tight schedule. Although I did have the best bagels in my entire life called Rosemary Rocksalt. It blew my mind. That place is amazing I had TWO breakfasts. I had never done that before. It was so good!
NT: Awesome! How’s your studio, the Trash Treasury, doing?
DS: It’s doing very well. We have amassed so much gear that we get to record in our own space, which is really fantastic. On our first full-length Keep It Safe we recorded ourselves then this past EP we got help from a man named Adam Becker who has played in a band with two of our members for a really really long time and he did an amazing job. It’s really nice to have our own space so we don’t feel like we need to hurry cause we’re on somebody else’s time. We just get to hunker down for a couple weeks and try everything that we want to try. We feel very lucky. It’s in the basement of the old cement factory in industrial South East Portland. It has a whole bunch of practice spaces all around our recording studio that many of our friend’s bands all practice in so it feels like this really awesome sense of community in a little basement in the corner of Portland. It’s really great.
NT: There was a tour you did of your recording space that was filmed. I think it was Thomas that said you have a two-inch tape machine that was used by Metallica?
DS: It’s true! Yes, very random, very funny thing. One of our previous members who is not able to play live with us anymore, he is a total gear head and has collected some really incredible stuff from eBay and Craigslist. He’s gone out of state to get certain pieces of gear that he really wanted and that was one of them and it lives in part of our studio. You might not be able to hear the influence of Metallica in our music, but under the radar it’s totally there!
NT: How did it end up being utilized?
DS: Oh… Great question! On this release I don’t know if we actually used it. I imagine that we will moving forward and especially on our full-length record that we’re working on right now but I don’t think it was put to work this time.
NT: In a few interviews you’ve mentioned that you’re feeling more confident in your music. There was comment made about feeling like you weren’t being as direct as you could be. Do you feel that has changed more on this record?
DS: Yea it definitely changed. On our first record it was the first songs I had ever personally wrote words for and vocal parts for and I definitely think that I didn’t realize I was doing this on purpose but I totally made all of my ideas super abstract so that they couldn’t really be offensive to anyone and so they could be interpreted in a million different ways. I guess I appreciate music that is like that, like Cocteau Twins and music where the lyrics aren’t necessarily a narrative. As a personal challenge for this release, I tried to write very distinct stories with very strong characters that kind of go through an arch at the end of the song and I’m really happy with that. It felt really good to be so direct and to write a story that is clear and can only be interpreted a couple of ways and to feel like if somebody doesn’t relate or doesn’t enjoy it that’s 100 per cent fine.
NT: Yes, you mentioned characters! Where did you find these characters and this setting?
DS: I actually wrote, I think this past year, having really strong, bold women in my life. That’s been the most important thing. I have this crew of female friends that are all extremely intelligent and very creative and extremely supportive of all of our own personal life endeavors and careers and creative work. So I feel like I wrote them all into this EP and wrote all about strong women together because that’s what I really needed to hear and what feels really important to me right now. So that’s where most of the characters were born.
NT: Do you think that’s a big part of your growth from Keep It Safe then?
DS: Yes I definitely do. And becoming a more confident performer. Getting up on stage and feeling a new sense of courage being up on stage, looking people dead in the eye while I’m performing, with a straight face. It feels like this fresh sense of power I guess and that definitely is portrayed in the stories of the songs.
NT: Do you feel like there is a different or deliberate aesthetic for this album that you strived for?
DS: So we took a lot of inspiration from how it sounded. We’re really inspired by bands like the Alabama Shakes, their new record is so so beautiful. The production on it is amazing and how it all fits together. As well as a Portland band called the Chromatics. They make really beautiful music that they create the visual aspect and their personal personas make for that live. The way the record sounds they kind of create the world of the Chromatics so when we step into their media you’re entering a world that they’ve created borders for and it’s very distinct. Also we’ve definitely become inspired to try and do that for our work and have the visual aesthetic and how our performance is perceived on stage and everything we create audibly is all part of one body and one world in a way. So just trying to make out one of the most important parts of this release is just trying to make the most cohesive work that we could.
NT: There was a word you threw around a lot, even before Keep It Safe came out. You had said that you were striving for a “darker” vibe/feel to your sound.
DS: It’s true, yea. We certainly have been making like summer, bright sounding pop music for a long time. We realized when having meetings talking about what new direction we were trying to go in and what new aspects we wanted to pull in for our new releases we realized that’s not the music that engages us the most. When we’re listening to our own favorite bands and finding new music that really livens up, its not sunshine pop. Its darker and has a sexiness to it and it has this more alluring and eerie quality to it. So it really came out of what we enjoy the most and trying to delve a little more into that kind of music.
NT: Who are you guys listening to right now then?
DS: I have been listening to the Always record. It’s even new anymore, it’s been out for quite a while, but I listen to that record all the time because I love it so much. They’re from Canada; they’re from Prince Edward Island. We’re actually playing a festival in Portland with them this weekend that I’m really excited about. That record, also Sound and Color the Alabama Shakes record for sure. We also listen to a lot of R&B actually. We really love Drake and this artist named The Dream. He’s written a lot of Rihanna and Mariah Carey hits.
NT: Well I guess we’ll watch out for the R&B influences in your full-length when it comes out.
DS: There you go! I think the main thing we have really learned so much from that type of music that we weren’t quite getting with our first record is that you don’t have to have a million ideas in one song and a million layers to make it interesting. You can have one good idea and one part that goes for an entire three-and-a-half-minute song and it can still be so engaging and so catchy and keep people’s attention. I think from R&B and artists like that, trying to simplify. I think that’s on of the biggest lessons we’ve learned in the last few months and try to bring out on this EP that comes out next month.
NT: You guys are really involved in the Portland music scene, how would you describe it currently?
DS: You know what, its funny, Portland… has a very complex music scene. I feel like when people think about the Portland scene they think about one type of music like, I don’t know, the Shins or Modest Mouse type music. But its crazy, there’s a super fun hip-hop scene with a really amazing rapper named Illmaculate who’s been around for so long and also a really killer R&B band named Shy Girls that’s coming up. I feel like it’s an extremely rich and incredibly diverse music scene and the most important part about Portland’s scene is that it’s so easy to start up and to be able to have a practice space that’s fairly affordable and its so important to have recourses where you have a friend record your demos and make a mix tape or just get your music heard. I don’t think it’s as strong in other cities. Other cities cater more to bigger bands and have a lot of recourses for mid-level bands but its so tough to be a very young band. In Portland it’s so entrenched. There are so many bands doing their own thing and it’s really inspiring.
NT: What are you most excited about for this fall tour? Any spots you’re looking forward to hitting up?
DS: Oh man, I’m so excited. Well first off I’m most excited because we’re touring with Pure Bathing Culture. We’ve known them for a while in Portland. They are so amazing, they’re incredible human beings as well as musicians and so playing a million shows with them all over the United States sounds like the greatest thing to do this fall. We’re also going places I’ve never been to before, which I’m really excited about. We’re going to Montreal then we’re going to Toronto and a few places on the East Coast. We’re going to Madison, Wisconsin, which I’m excited about because the band PHOX is from Baraboo, Wisconsin, it’s very close to that. They’re a band I love very much; I have a giant girl crush. I’m really excited to play the Chapel in San Francisco; we’ve never played there before. We’ve heard only great things. And to play the Echo in L.A., that’ll be great. So basically yea, 30 different reasons I’m excited. And it feel so good to have a new release, I can’t wait to hold it in my hands. It’s going to be… fantastic.
Well safe travels, we’ll stay tuned!
Interview by Anna Dimoff